Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Too Close to Home

You may have heard this story about a home that exploded on Christmas Eve due to a gas leak. And when I say "exploded," I don't mean there was an explosion; I mean blasted out of existence, blown to smithereens (whatever a "smithereen" is.)

One man was killed and others were seriously injured, including a Pacific Gas & Electric worker . A number of neighborhood residents had reported smelling gas but the gas company did not respond immediately and then did not evacuate the neighborhood.

I'm posting it here because the destroyed home is just around the corner from my parents' house. Fortunately, they weren't home at the time because they were visiting me.

Authorities are still investigating but it could have happened anywhere, to anyone. The people in the house were just spending their Christmas Eve together, preparing for the holiday as many of us were. Then, it was all gone in a flash. Literally.

It could have been my parents' house. Heck, it could have been my house. It could have been your house.

We can't dwell on why it happened to those people and not to any of us. We can only count our blessings and take no moment for granted.

Perhaps this incident should inform our resolutions for 2009?

Top 5 Totally Uncool Things About My 'hood - The Final in a Series

#1 – Tagging

Why do they do this?

Is it for the same reason Paris Hilton and Pamela Anderson release a personal porn tape? Do they need the notoriety?

Or is it the same reason dogs do their business on trees? Are they just marking territory?

And what’s with this tag?

Who are the 90026 Blax? Does that refer to African-Americans living in the 90026 zip code? Or the stage crew of an Echo Park theatre company?

If the latter, maybe I know the taggers. If the former, then I think it's a frame-up. There aren’t many black people living in the 90026, certainly not enough to form a gang. The few I’ve seen were definitely not the type of people who spray paint walls.

Degrees of tagging vary – from this most egregious example . . .

. . . to this girly example, done in pink chalk.

This girl (I’m only guessing it was done by a girl) spread her message down my street and around the corner. One bit of this graffito appeared on my neighbor’s retaining wall, which I washed off with soap and water. Another appeared on the wall of the 7-11 around the corner. That one I left in place.

This is a more aggressive example at the 7-11:

This one I don't get. Surely, there's no glory in tagging a 7-11.

It’s getting better though. Tags used to appear on my retaining wall on a regular basis. K and I would paint them out as soon as we could. Sometimes, a couple of days would pass before we could get to it, but we did our best to get to them as soon as possible. We’ve noticed that the taggers seldom target us anymore. It still happens once in a while, but rarely.

I don’t know who does the tagging. My guess is that in my own 'hood most of it is not the work of organized gangs. I think it’s just kids who like to paint stuff. I caught a pair of boys in the act one afternoon. In the middle of the day, they decided to defile the big white wall on the house down the street. I yelled at them; they kind of scoffed at me but they stopped their vandalism and went on their way. The next week, a woman in another neighborhood was shot and killed for stopping some taggers in action. But that was a totally different 'hood.

Like littering, tagging is an act committed by those who feel they have no investment in the community and no responsibility toward the neighborhood. But tagging is a much more aggressive act, a much more conscious act. Littering is simply laziness, negligence. It is done without thinking, without premeditation. Tagging is always intentional, always premeditated.

School boys aside, maybe taggers tag because they do have an investment. Maybe it’s just an investment that the dominant culture doesn’t recognize.

But from our side of the fence, it’s such a stupid act isn’t it? It’s really the human equivalent of marking territory. What if I went around putting my tag on other people’s houses?

How totally uncool would that be?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Kitten Wants to Wish You a Very Meow-y Christmas!

. . . but she's a little shy . . .

. . . so she asked some friends to help:

The Jingle Cats - White Christmas - The funniest movie is here. Find it

Happy, Catty Christmas to you and all your kittens!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

There, it's settled then!

This is the time for all of us to celebrate the birth of our savior, whoever he may be:

Chanukah Vs. Christmas - The best free videos are right here

Happy Kwanzaa!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Bizet to Tchaikovsky

For when you have a spare 5 and 1/2 minutes for a cute story and some great music:

Santa Taking The A Train - Click here for more blooper videos

You should always spare 5 or 6 minutes for great music.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Fa La La La George

It's been a long political season:

Deck The Halls - For more funny movies, click here

Deck the halls, indeed.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Friday, December 19, 2008

Four Hari Krishnas

The more observant may have observed lately that I've been posting less often than before. My only excuse is that I simply don't feel like it. I have no better reason than that but it's my reality and I'm sticking to it.

But I don't want to be too Grinch-y at this time of year so instead of thinking of something to write when I don't feel like it, I'm just going to post holiday videos that I find and I hope you enjoy them.

This one brings an Indian slant to our multi-cultural holiday.

12 Days of Christmas - Funny blooper videos are here

Merry Christmas to all and to all a Good Night!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

#2 - Top 5 Totally Uncool Things About My Neighborhood


I’ll not likely confess it to their faces but my parents managed to teach me at least two things – 1) be kind to animals and 2) don’t litter.

Other than quick and easy access to Slurpees® the other upside to living just around the corner from a 7-11 is that as late as 7:35 I can run out for a Lotto ticket in time for the 7:45 draw.

The downside is the constant collection of debris from any fool who happens to finish his Slurpee® or chili dog or push-up pop in the time it takes to reach our house. The wrappings are left on our retaining wall

and on the sidewalk or gutter.

The worst is when they think they can hide their offense by tucking their trash into my plantings.

Who raised these pigs? (no offence to our swine friends is intended.)

Never in my life have I left a piece of trash where it didn’t belong. How much effort is there in either spotting a waste bin or simply carrying it to your final destination?

Let’s not do the math but I remember Lady Bird Johnson’s "Keep America Beautiful" campaign. You know, I think it did some good. It taught me that it wasn’t just my parents who held anti-litter beliefs. The campaign created a cultural awareness that a) America is beautiful and b) each of us is responsible for keeping it that way.

If I wear my bleeding heart liberal cap then I can look into the likely causes of littering – feelings of disenfranchisement and inattentive upbringing. If the first, I’m pretty sure the litterbugs are not homeowners. They feel no sense of investment and are not particularly concerned with the fact that while they are wandering the streets, enjoying their repast from 7-11, I am spending a huge chunk of my day either at work or commuting to/from work and I have little free time to clean up after them.

And so, they blight their own neighborhoods, making the upwardly mobile less likely to buy in, thwarting gentrification.

Not everyone is pro-gentrification and many are actively anti-. But everyone who owns a home is pro-increasing the resale value of his or her home. I don’t plan on selling my house any time soon but there are a few For Sale signs up in my neighborhood. I don’t want those houses on the market indefinitely and I certainly don’t want potential good neighbors discouraged because they see a bunch of food wrappers tucked into hedges. I want new neighbors who will make the effort to take care of their new homes. I want the kind of neighbors who don’t want to live in a neighborhood littered with trash.

I’m not saying I’m pro-gentrification but I don’t want this neighborhood to revert to the gang-y ghetto it was a few years ago.

But if the litterbugs are not invested in the community, then there is no incentive for them to keep the neighborhood moving upward. In fact, there is the disincentive of rising rents. But I don’t believe that the litterbugs are thinking it out this far. I do believe that they don’t think they owe me anything. They don’t believe they have a responsibility to me or to their own neighborhood. I’m sure they don’t even realize the power they have – that they themselves contribute to urban blight. They don’t realize that they have the power to live in a better neighborhood simply by not making it a worse neighborhood.

And there is the conundrum. They, the litterbugs, are not truly disenfranchised; not at all without power. They have power. The have as much power as any of us and they wield it all the time. They just don’t know it.

Lady Bird, where are you? Teach us your lessons again.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Home Value Dropping? That Could Be the Least of Your Worries

Upside down on your mortgage? Can't get that home equity line of credit to finish the rumpus room? Adult kiddies forced to move back in with you? Apparently, the housing crisis isn't the homeowner's only nightmare. According to FOX News, we now have to worry about the possibility of vampires "living right here, among us."

If you haven't the time or inclination to watch the five minute video, allow me to summarize. This Hannity guy gives a little background on vampire lore followed by interviews with a couple of characters who claim to be vampires. They claim their kind come from all walks of life and live in every environment. Some of them even live in (gasp!) suburbs! And some of them dress just like you and me. Since I wear black almost exclusively, it's not big news that they dress like me. What really surprises me is that they dress like you.

Oh, and they don't always feed on blood. One of the interviewees just "feeds on energy." Must be like a vampire Atkins thing.

I discovered this story on Yahoo just before leaving work this evening. A colleague came in to say goodnight. I mentioned the story to him.

"Oh, I know a vampire," he says matter-of-factly.


"Yes. He had his teeth filed into fangs."

"Must be tough at job interviews."

"He's on a reality show now."

Then who am I to judge? He's on a show. I'm not. I spend a lot of time thinking about shows. I think about shows I want to be on. I think about shows I would want to watch. The problem must be my unnaturally natural teeth.

But I digress into self-absorption. Here's the real problem. How is this news? Let us not ponder too long how anything on FOX News is news. But let us just wonder for a moment that considering all the world faces, be it worldwide terrorism, waves of unemployment or the collapse of capitalism as we know it, FOX chooses to report on vampire poseurs.

And while we're at it, what kind of society are we when we have a vampire subculture? Can't we just leave it at armies of Trekkies holding conventions? Haven't we been sufficiently damaged by theatre geeks in bodices and puffy shirts spouting bad Shakespeare at Renaissance Pleasure Faires year after year after year? Aren't midnight showings of Rocky Horror Picture Show enough?

But maybe it speaks well of us. Maybe a country that has the luxury of middle-class subcultures of decadence can't be totally sunken in despair.

But just in case we're not talking about a group of adults fixated on an adolescent fantasy, keep the garlic close at hand and maybe a good, sharp stake at the ready.

You never know. Maybe FOX finally reported some news.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Finally! A Useful Invention

A package came in the mail today. It was from my sister, J. In celebration of our new wood floors, she sent me a gift I can actually use - Slipper Genie™! They're slippers with microfiber chenille soles. At last, I can clean my floors as I walk through the house. No trip to the fridge will be wasted (only waisted). No need to feel guilty that my evenings are not spent housecleaning.

The packaging says they fit sizes 6 to 9. That's quite a range.

The microfiber chenille on these babies is soft, soft, soft! Too bad it doesn't line both sides of the sole.

The package comes with a list of warnings. They include "Do not slide or run." Ok. "Do not use on carpet." Got it. And "Do not use if your balance is not stable." Not a problem. I believe I previously mentioned my excellent sense of balance. I'm surprised they didn't also list "Do not use while intoxicated." They do mention that the slippers "are not a toy." I guess that means I won't be engaging them in any home puppet theatre action. That's an unfortunate loss.

I'm now going to walk around the house for a while. Out of the way, dust bunnies!

Thanks, J!